Fighting CPS: Guilty Until Proven Innocent of Child Protective Services Charges
Deborah K. Frontiera
Bluebonnets, Boots and Books (2011)
Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views (8/11)
The back cover notes of “Fighting CPS” by Deborah K. Frontiera state that the book “chronicles thirteen months of agony and frustration suffered by the innocent Bonilla and Frontiera families as a result of Children’s Protective Services removal of young James Bonilla from his parents.” But the significance of the story this book tells reverberates far beyond the Child Protective Services Division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on which the book focuses. This book is relevant for all fifty states with similar agencies charged with responsibility for investigating reports of abuse and neglect of children.
Few Americans take exception to the mission of child protective services and their primary goal of protecting children. But a mounting body of evidence, like that presented in “Fighting CPS,” has made it clear that an alarming number of state agencies and family court systems are broken. This reality has resulted in a growing grassroots movement demanding change and reform in numerous states. Based on Frontiera’s book, it’s hard to imagine a state in greater disrepair than Texas!
On the other hand, once the reader uncoils from their own initial reaction of disbelief, made possible by the detailed documentation drawn from the author’s own copious journal notes, no imagination is required to comprehend the ordeal of young James Bonilla, his parents Rufina and Julio and grandparents Deborah and Jasper Frontiera. I wonder, however, if those individuals from Texas CPS who were involved with this case understand, or even care, about the ramifications of their ineptitude. I was not, in the case of James Bonilla. Many reform advocates believe that the investigative component of the process would best be executed by trained law enforcement agencies. And, to make a difficult process even more daunting, the Bonilla case was handed off to thirteen different case workers over thirteen months. Nearly all of them failed to even find time to read the case file.
In “Fighting CPS,” Deborah Frontiera shares her story in an honest, open and endearing manner. I felt her agony and frustrations and sometimes intense anger throughout the book. I was eager to keep reading so that I could celebrate the victory that I wished for this family to achieve. While Frontiera follows-up on her own story with ten other case studies in answerer to the question of whether or not her case was typical, it is her own story that undoubtedly will compel others to engage with this issue or become involved with a movement. At least that was the case for me. Before penning my final draft of this review, I began researching the current condition of CPS in my own county and state. I hope the author will tell James and his parents that the sharing of his story has already had an impact on someone who read the book.